Sri Lanka under emergency as police hunt for bomb blast plotters
22 April 2019
Sri Lankan government today invoked emergency powers after Sunday’s devastating bomb attacks on hotels and churches that left over 290 dead and several hundreds wounded, and blamed it on militants with foreign links.
The emergency powers that empower police and the military to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, will go into effect from midnight tonight, the president’s office said.
Police found 87 bomb detonators during searches in capital Colombo’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.
A night curfew will go into effect at 8 pm, the government announced.
While no terror group owned up responsibility for the barbaric bombing, investigators are suspecting local Islamist militants with overseas links
Investigators said seven suicide bombers took part in the attacks while a government spokesman said an international network was involved.
Police had received a tip-off of a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group, the National Thawheed Jama’ut, some 10 days ago, but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the authorities decided to ignore it.
Police said 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan, but they gave no more details.
International anti-terrorism experts said even if a local group had carried out the attacks, it was likely that al Qaeda or Islamic State were involved, given the level of sophistication.
Two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo’s seafront, said Ariyananda Welianga, a senior official at the government’s forensic division. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels.
A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also hit, but it was not immediately clear how those attacks were carried out.
Sri Lankan police today said the van which had carried explosives to carry out bomb attacks at the three hotels had been held and the driver arrested. A safe house where the bombers had lived for nearly three months plotting the attacks was also located in the south of Colombo suburb of Panadura.
It is clear from the pattern of the attack that it is the same Mumbai blast ideologues that are behind the Sri Lankan attack. The terrorists seem to have decided to give India a miss this time round as the situation was not suitable for a perfect strike.
At least six Indians have been killed in the serial blasts, including suicide attacks, which struck three churches and luxury hotels frequented by foreigners in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, PTI quoted officials as saying.
The police said at least six Indian nationals have been reported among the foreigners who died in the blasts. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj identified two more individuals killed in the blasts. "We sadly confirm the deaths of the following two individuals in the blasts yesterday, KG Hanumantharayappa and M Rangappa," Swaraj retweeted the Indian High Commission in Colombo's tweet.
On Sunday, Swaraj, in a series of tweets, identified the four Indians as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar, Ramesh and PS Raseena.
The deadly attacks forced the Sri Lankan government to declare a curfew in Colombo and block access to social media and messaging sites. Sri Lankan Airlines has issued notice for passengers travelling during curfew, which ended at 6 am today.
Seven people have been arrested so far in connection with the blasts probe.
Indian intelligence sources see some similar patterns in the November 2008 Mumbai attack and Sunday’s attack i Sri Lanka in terms of targets, lethality and purpose of attack. The Mumbai attacks were designed not only to cause the maximum possible damage in terms of human casualties but also to target groups such as Western tourists.
In six near simultaneous attacks, the terrorists targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, Sri Lankan government forensic analyst an Ariyananda Welianga said, adding that during the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai also the attackers simultaneously targeted two luxury hotels, a busy railway terminal, and a Jewish outreach center.
Welianga says two people were involved in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel. One bomber each attacked the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels and St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St Sebastian’s church in the city of Negombo and Zion Church in the city of Batticaloa.
Two suicide bombers attacked Shangri La, one each targeted Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury hotels
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held telephonic conversation with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after the serial blasts hit the island nation.
Modi condemned the Sri Lanka blasts and reiterated 'national security' as poll plank in rally on Sunda
US state department issues travel advisory, says 'terrorist groups' may continue to plot attacks
The US state department said in a revised travel advisory ‘terrorist groups’ were continuing to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka, Reuters reported, after serial blasts killed over 290 people and wounded about 500 in churches and luxury hotels on Sunday.
Sri Lankan authorities blocked most social media after Easter Sunday attacks killed more than 200 people, with officials saying the temporary move was meant to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions.
Police have so far arrested 24 people from the minority Muslim community in connection with the multiple blasts that rocked the island nation on Sunday.